DOVER — If you see something, say something — all under the cloak of anonymity and to benefit a community.
Delaware Crime Stoppers has a new executive director — Michael Gallagher — but its mission remains the same: The nonprofit organization revolves around taking tips from the public, which may earn rewards for the source and boost police investigations.
“The only way we respond (to tipsters) is by their Tip ID Number,” said the 30-year-old Mr. Gallagher, whose hiring was announced May 21. “That’s the only way we know who they are.”
The stakes can be high when reporting observations on, for example, trafficking in narcotics or locating fugitives, two of the leading kinds of tips received by DCS.
“Anonymity is 100% of what we do,” Mr. Gallagher said. “Sometimes, it’s serious. Sometimes, we receive information that could put someone’s life in danger if that anonymity is broken.
“So it’s really important to maintain that confidence that people can come to us, and you’re not going to be a known individual.”
Mr. Gallagher has replaced Robert “Bob” Mooney, 78, who retired this year due to health issues involving an earlier bout with throat cancer. While his 18-year tenure as executive director ended, Mr. Mooney will continue to serve on the DCS board of directors and assist operations as needed.
Reflecting back on his time with DCS (which debuted in 1983), the former 20-year Delaware State Police trooper said the organization’s success was built on sharing tips with law enforcement to investigate and analyze further. “We don’t have a big ‘I gotcha’ in our cases because of our charter being associated with anonymity. We don’t have a lot of ‘Gee whiz, you gave your information to Crime Stoppers, and here’s the murderer.’
“Our charter is to anonymously receive the information and provide it to the police agency that has the case and will be doing the investigation. It’s their responsibility to provide all the associated probable-cause issues. No one can be arrested independently on our tip,” he said.
“It all must be confirmed and affirmed by a police agency, and they go forward (with) the arrest, whether it be a fugitive or an investigation to develop a person responsible for a crime.”
Mr. Mooney said he’ll miss interactions with law enforcement officers “because they’re very honorable and trustworthy individuals through and through, from the smallest town to the largest agency, the state police. That was always memorable to me, and I was always proud to be associated with them throughout my entire life and career in law enforcement.”
An ever-expanding pipeline of tips marked Mr. Mooney’s term, which began in 2003 when about 30 to 40 tips arrived monthly. Now, he said, about 225 or so come in.
“The increase is due to the outwardness of publicity, advertising, community awareness, invitations to Kiwanis, Elks, Moose, Lions and participation in community activities with our trailer, our truck, all our information on police news releases,” Mr. Mooney said.
Taking an ambitious approach while touting the strong foundation Mr. Mooney left, Mr. Gallagher would “like to see us get 1,000 tips a month.”
Besides the fugitive and drug-dealing issues, he’d like to hear more about “all the crimes that happen in the state.”
“It could be as simple as something like animal abuse that’s crime, the well-being of a child, to burglaries, car thefts, shoplifting. While it might seem minimal that someone stole from the Dollar General, the constant running down of that store might cause the store to close, which creates a food desert, which leads to a negative trickle-down effect.”
Mr. Gallagher said he hopes that marketing in less engaged areas, particularly Downstate, will yield stronger results. Through crime-mapping and shared information with police, he believes that areas of need can be spotted.
“I (aim to) bring an analytical approach to this. (I) am very numbers-driven, am very data-focused, so I think Downstate, we could do a lot more with visibility there,” said the criminal justice graduate of the University of Delaware.
“Just what I’ve seen so far is that there’s huge pockets where we haven’t received a single tip, but crime happens everywhere. It helps to know where are needy spots to start marketing where to build the visibility and let the communities know we exist, that we are who we say we are and build the trust.”
Tips can be called into 800-TIP-3333, and there’s no caller ID or recorded conversations. They can also be submitted here and through a mobile app that’s available on the website.
DCS will host its annual Friends of Law Enforcement golf outing Aug. 20 at Back Creek Golf Club in Middletown.